Harry wasn't sure if the whiteness encompassing him dissipated or condensed, or if it had ever actually been there at all. All he was aware of was a figure suddenly standing before him. At least, he thought it was a figure. And he thought it was before him. But he felt it behind him, and watched as when he blinked it lost its substance as a figure. It had eyes, at least. Of that he was sure. Two bright, constant, glowing eyes.
"Who the hell are you?" That was Ron's voice, but Harry hadn't known Ron was there. He had been alone in the white thus far. Squinting, Harry looked around him, trying to spot his friend, but to no avail. He must be behind the presence of the figure.
"And where the hell are we?" Ginny was here, wherever here was, too, then.
"I am what you would call Fate, Ronald. Ginevra, you are nowhere. And you are everywhere. Everything, everywhere, and every time that ever was or will be is first here. This is- the maternity ward of reality, so to speak."
"I don't understand," said Hermione's voice, confirming that they were all together, even if they were all alone.
"Everything must come from somewhere, Hermione. Every idea must be created before it can be thought; sounds must exist before words can be dreamed; matter has to come from somewhere first. This is that somewhere. Like a breeding ground of dreams. I and the other entities of consciousness were the first, that we know of, to be born from here. And we dreamed up such ideas! Life, death, rebirth, time, space, being. And then what was born here began to dream, the dust became a universe, the amoeba created complex life, such beauty made possible constantly thanks to this nowhere. And then you humans, you dreamed of Fate. And I, who had been nothing but a consciousness before, emerged from here as this: An active role in all your lives. You, whom I helped to create, have created me. That is the power of this place."
"It's making my head ache," Harry muttered sullenly. "Look, I, er, well, pleased to meet you and all that, you know, thanks for giving me life, but I think I might have gotten the short end of the stick here, and I can't say I'm too thrilled about you."
Fate seemed to contemplate him for a moment. "Your life thus far has been more- eventful than most, it seems. But that is not my fault. I do not choose the pieces of my Game particularly. They are given to me from what has occurred previously. It is really chance that gave you the- what did you call it? The short end of the stick?"
"…I'm sorry. Did you say game?"
"The Game, yes. It is the manner in which Time and I dictate events in your world. Do not be angry with me, Harry. It is your kind, with your beliefs and your constant imagination, that has dictated this job even to me. There is a balance at work here that none may fight."
Hermione's voice came out of the emptiness, laced with bitterness "It's all I ever wanted, to be a pawn. Really. Makes me feel all warm and fuzzy on the inside. Sort of complete, really."
"Oh, I assure you, you are not a pawn. Your piece on the original Game board was in the very back."
"I have a piece? Why you manipulative- you know, I'm sorry I ever read that book about you. If belief is what keeps you sustained, I certainly don't want to feed into it. I refuse to be a- a chess piece."
"Not again at least."
"Sorry," he chuckled. "Couldn't help myself."
"If it helps," Fate began, sounding a little like he really was trying to be helpful, "We do not manipulate you- merely the situations you find yourselves in. Human beings are very attached to their idea of free will. Even the belief in Fate does not change that they choose rather adamantly to remain in control of their actions."
"I- well- yes, okay, that does make me feel better," Hermione admitted. "But I won't thank you in the slightest for the incident with that troll."
"It doesn't make me feel a bit better!" Harry exclaimed. "I don't care how I react in a situation! I didn't want these bloody situations to begin with! You control 'the situation', that means you killed my parents, you left me with the Dursleys, allowed me to be attacked again and again, put me sometime when I was happy then yanked it away, and for what? I couldn't care less that when I decided to fight for my life it was really me doing it. Why did I have to do it in the first place? Because of you!"
"That is- only somewhat fair. I do have an opponent, you know. I do not play this Game by myself. Time is just as much to blame for situations occurring as I. And besides that, many of the events that happened to you were the result of the ideas of one of your fellow humans. And we may be able to manipulate the ideas- leaving a book about myself lying underneath an Invisibility Cloak for Hermione to find, for example- but there are certain times when events are out of our control. When you rescued Fiona was one such time. Although the Game was responsible for blowing a sale ad past the girl so that she might go to the shop where the Death Eaters were lurking."
"You wanted her to be captured?" Harry wasn't certain, but he thought he heard at least two of his friends yelling along with him.
"The Horcruxes are part of Time's Game plan."
"So- wait a moment," Hermione said. "The Horcruxes have been created- but they weren't fated to be created? What's fated and what's not? Why do you and Time play against each other at all? Aren't you in control of what happens to everybody? I mean, that would mean that you always win. There's no game in that."
Harry swore that Fate smiled. He didn't see a smile, hell, he didn't even see a mouth, but he felt the smile all the same. "The problem with destiny is that each person doesn't have only one. The timing in which events occur in their life can guide them down any number of paths, all of which lead to different yet viable fates. You, for instance, Hermione, had many potential destinies that ended with a lonely suicide.
"I go into each round knowing all of the different twists of fate that may occur, and I choose a select few that I like. It is then my role in the Game to try and manipulate the moves that Time makes so that they prove to be a positive influence on my Game plan, and so that any one of the fates I have chosen turn out to be the end result. His role, of course, is to try and use time to take me so far off track that I have no hope of ever getting back to the paths I have chosen. It often happens. It did happen, when you were attacked in Russia. It was lucky that I was able to use my turn to send you back and start from scratch. That has never happened in a Game round before. I must admit I was quite proud of that move."
"But-" if Harry could see her, he swore Hermione would be biting her lip. "You make it sound like you're winning right now. But there are so many awful things going on in the world. Terrorism, disease, civil war- is it a close game? Could Time win?"
"Oh, now you're straying into "good" versus "evil". Such terribly human concepts. I'm afraid they're lesser entities. They exist in the physical realms, interacting immediately with you humans. They are not quite like us, who were here at least consciously before all else. Make no mistake, Hermione, just because I am on your side in this Round does not mean that I am always attempting to influence the side that you would deem "right". Why, what you call the Dark Ages was my Game plan. That entire bothersome Renaissance was all Time throwing a wrench in my plan. I was aiming for a medieval world war."
There was silence for who knew how long. In the everywhere they were in, it could have been eons. Finally, Ginny said slowly, "So- us going back in time. That was- you- and not Time?"
Fate chuckled, "It does seem rather counterintuitive, does it not? Yes, it was me. But I mandated that Time send you back."
"So why send us back to my parents?" Harry asked, "Why not send us back to the beginning of the war?"
"Why not?" Fate asked in return, a hint of a shrug evident in his voice, "I won the Round that your parents were a part of. I was losing your Round. Why go back to a losing strategy when you have a winning one as an option?"
"It really is all just a game to you," Harry murmured in wonder.
"Your lives are fleeting. It would be foolish to allow it to be anything else."
Ginny cleared her throat, "Right. Well. This is uncomfortable. What happens now?"
"Now you go back to the correct year, and a new Round begins. Hopefully this time none of you will die. That is not a part of my chosen fates."
"What are?" Ron asked curiously.
Fate's presence shook its head, "That would be divulging my strategy, Ronald. You may decide for yourself in the end if you believe I won."
"So we'll remember this?" Hermione asked. "Time travelling, the maternity ward of reality, you and Time?"
"Everything that has happened after the original time lines you lived your lives in changed will be remembered, yes. So everything from the moment you woke up in the past you will remember when Time returns you to your proper place. What happened previously, though, I cannot guarantee coherent memories of."
"So… what changed?" Ginny asked. "Did we change anything?"
Fate's presence seemed to waver in Harry's vision, although his eyes stayed as bright as ever. "I fear that you can remain here not much longer. Time grows impatient. Yes, some things have changed. I will leave you here for a moment to adjust to your new memories. And then a new Round and new events."
"Wait-" Harry began, but it was too late. Fate's figure disappeared. Or the whiteness around it congealed. Or everything, including the whiteness, dissolved. Perception meant nothing in this place.
And then, suddenly, it meant everything. Harry was no longer in emptiness. He was, in fact, seated on the grass in the backyard of Number 4. He twirled a dandelion between his small, child's fingers. He was waiting. And he had been very good about waiting so far, but it was starting to be boring. It was almost noon, and still he hadn't shown up. And it was Harry's birthday, too! He should have been here by now!
"Hey there, Prongslet!" a voice called.
Harry's head shot up. He dropped the dandelion in excitement as he ran to greet the man who had just entered the backyard with him. "Uncle Padfoot! I thought you forgot!"
Sirius scooped him up in a hug and spun him around a few times for good measure. "Forget your fifth birthday? What kind of heartless man do you take me for? I've half a mind not to give you your present, if you think I'm that cruel!"
Harry laughed. "No, no! I didn't mean it! What did you get me?"
Chuckling, Sirius sat down and patted the ground beside him, and invitation that Harry immediately accepted. Sirius glanced slyly from side to side, checking to make sure they were alone, and pulled out his wand. Harry nearly squealed with excitement. It wasn't often his Uncle Padfoot did magic. Aunt Petunia hated it. She never allowed it when Uncle Padfoot came to visit, so they had to be sneaky about it.
"Go ahead, Harry," Sirius whispered. "Say the magic words and your present will appear."
"What are the magic words, Uncle Padfoot?" Harry whispered back.
"Repeat after me, okay? Abracadabra and alakazeem, give me my gift right now or I'll scream."
As Harry dutifully repeated the words, albeit a bit jumbled, Sirius subtly flicked his wand, and a large gift appeared in Harry's lap. The five year old wasted no time shredding the paper to bits, revealing a book. A magic book. Harry could tell. The pictures were moving. His eyes were as wide as saucers as he reverently stroked the front cover. "But- Uncle Padfoot, Aunt Petunia won't let me keep it in the house! It's magic! And if I keep it outside the worms will steal it."
Even though he had been deathly serious and had said nothing funny whatsoever, thank you very much, his uncle threw his head back and barked with laughter. "I don't think you need to worry about the worms, Prongslet. The book's charmed, if any of the Dursleys look at it, they'll just see a normal book of fairy stories. So go ahead, open it up and look through it."
Harry did so, flipping through the pages slowly until it dawned on him that the illustrations looked familiar. He squinted and leaned over until his eyes were only a few inches from the pages. "Those are my parents!" he exclaimed, pointing excitedly to the redheaded princess and bespectacled knight.
Sirius smiled sadly, "Yeah, yeah they are. The pictures are all based off sketches Wormtail did at their wedding. They can't be here to tell you bedtime stories, but at least this way they'll be a part of them."
Harry nearly knocked him over with the force of his hug. "Thank you, Uncle Padfoot. It's the bestest birthday present ever! Can you read me a story tonight?"
Sighing, Sirius repositioned Harry so that he was sitting on his lap, not draped across his shoulders. "You know your aunt will kick me out long before your bedtime. But I can read you one now, if you like."
Harry pouted. "No! I want you to stay longer. Or I want to go with you. Why do I have to stay here?"
"Because your uncle is a very stupid man, Harry," Sirius replied sadly. "I was supposed to be the one who would take care of you, you know. Godfather and whatnot. But- I was very, very angry when I found out your parents died. There was somebody who was supposed to protect them, you met Wormtail, right? But the bad man who killed your parents hurt him, too, and he couldn't protect your parents anymore. And I was so angry. I went to Wormtail's house and I started spelling everything. I trashed the place, but it was in a Muggle neighborhood."
"You can't do magic by the Muggles, Uncle Padfoot!" Harry cried in horror.
"I know. And I got in trouble for it. So much trouble that I couldn't take care of you, so they gave you to the Dursleys instead. But Fee- you know Fee; you've met her a couple of times-" Harry nodded, "She's a lawyer. She got me out of trouble and made so much noise that they gave me permission to come visit you."
"I'm glad you do, Uncle Padfoot. Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon don't like me too much."
Sirius hugged Harry tightly, "I know."
Harry was in dress robes. He had never worn robes before, and if they were all like the itchy ones he had on now, he wasn't excited about school.
"Stop fidgeting, Prongslet," Sirius admonished, smoothing the wrinkles out of Harry's robes. When he stood, he noticed with a crestfallen expression that, in kneeling to rid his godson of wrinkles, he had destroyed his own previously pressed dress robes. Harry laughed.
"It's not nice to mock a doomed man, Prongslet," he muttered sourly.
"Why are you doomed?" Harry asked curiously.
Leaning down, Sirius whispered in Harry's ear, "Fee snores."
"I heard that," the snorer was leaning against the doorway, arms crossed and a slight smile on her lips. "And I do not."
"Aunt Fee!" Harry called happily, running to hug her. "This is the boys' room, though! You shouldn't be here!"
Fee chuckled. "Well. I heard that uncle of yours saying untrue things, I simply had to defend myself, didn't I?" Harry smiled, showing off the gap in his grin where a front tooth used to be. "But actually, we have a gift for you, and I wanted to make sure I was here when Sirius told you."
Harry's grin was replaced by confusion. "I thought the bride got the presents, not the ring bearer."
Sirius crossed the room to join them, wrapping an arm around Fee's waist. "What can we say, we like to give. When do you get out of school, Harry?"
"In two months. Why?"
"Well then, Harry. In two months, you'll be coming to live with us for the summer."
GRYFFINDOR! I knew you'd make it. Don't tell the wife (she was a Ravenclaw), but we Gryffindors are by far superior. Be sure to cause hell, now. I expect plenty of broken rules and enough stories to last us through the entire summer, do you hear?
As to this friend you've made. A Weasley, is it? That would be Molly and Arthur's youngest boy. Are you absolutely certain he's the same friend from those dreams of yours? I only mean that you've never met anyone you've dreamt about before, I'd be curious to know what comes out of it.
And don't think I've forgotten that you're probably infuriated with me. I'm sorry I couldn't see you off at the platform. Really, you shouldn't have had to go it alone your first time. Peter's disappeared, though. I got called in on the case, and I know it can't completely excuse me for missing your first train ride, but I hope it softens you up to me a little. I'll sneak in to see you sometime, make sure you have a story to tell.
Love and luck,
By story I did not mean fighting a troll.
"Merlin's pants, Harry! Can't you hear the door!"
"I thought you were getting it!" Harry called back, finishing a paragraph of one of his summer essays.
"I don't have any clothes on! I was under the impression that you were at the age where seeing your godfather's dangling bits would be detrimental to your mental stability."
Grimacing, Harry dragged himself up off the ground and went to answer the banging at Sirius's door, "The age I'm at doesn't ever want to hear the words 'dangling bits' coming from your mouth again! Oh! Professor Lupin!"
The graying man at the door blinked. Harry blinked. He had never met the man before, but he had still recognized him. He had had a dream once where this exact same man was talking to him about boggarts and dementors, though Harry had no idea what the two had to do with each other. Most of his dreams were like that. He dreamed about people he had never met before, and what happened in the dreams meant nothing. Not at the time, at least. He had once had a dream about Ron vomiting slugs (he had the dream before he ever met Ron) and then last year it actually happened. But Harry was used to it now. It was just uncomfortable for the people he shouldn't recognize but did.
Like Lupin. He was still standing in the door way, hand resting on the frame, gaping at Harry. "Oh my God," he whispered. "Harry? I thought they sent you to live with Lily's sister."
Harry shuffled his feet awkwardly. "Er. Yeah, technically that's where I still live. But I stay at Hogwarts over the holidays, and I come here for the summer, so not really anymore I guess since I never go back there. Do you- do you want to come in?"
Lupin shook himself out of his shock. "Yes. Yes, thank you." He passed into the hallway and hung his coat up then suddenly turned to look back at Harry. "You called me Professor Lupin."
"Should I not have?"
"Well, it's right I suppose, but I've never met you before. And I only just accepted the professor position last week. How did you-"
"Who is it, Prongslet?" Sirius's voice interrupted, followed by footsteps on the stairs.
"Don't you dare take another step unless you've got six layers of clothing on!" Harry warned. Sirius laughed and continued on down the stairs. "And it's Professor Lupin."
The footsteps stopped. One, two, three seconds passed, and suddenly Sirius was running through the house full tilt, sliding to the halt in the hallway. "You son of a bitch," he whispered, locking eyes with his childhood friend. "I don't know whether to hug you or kill you."
Remus tilted his chin up, bearing his throat to the other man. "I won't stop you."
"Uncle Padfoot?" Harry asked, suddenly unsure about the way his godfather was looking at their guest.
Sirius sighed. "Well. That settles that then. Can't kill you in front of the kid." He crossed the room and hugged Lupin tightly. "But don't think this means I forgive you for disappearing."
"I didn't mean to be gone so long. But Lily and James, and then you were thrown into prison, and Arnau's Death Eater boyfriend slaughtering him like that, that horrific- I just, I couldn't go to anymore funerals. So I ran. And then I ran into a werewolf pack in South America, and once I was sucked in I couldn't escape."
"So why are you here now?" Sirius asked, leading Lupin to a chair.
"In a moment, Padfood," Lupin replied turning to look at Harry, who had followed silently behind. "You got him back."
"Only for the summers."
"That's what I told him," Harry agreed, sitting back down by his homework.
"Why did you call me Professor Lupin, Harry?"
Harry sighed. "Because when you're in my dreams that's what I call you."
"Your dreams?" Great. Lupin wasn't going to believe him. Not too many people did, really.
"Harry has most unusual dreams," Sirius supplied.
Sirius and Harry glanced at each other. That was something they had wondered about from time to time, but Sirius had always seemed sure that they were something different, though he never told Harry what he suspected them to be. "Not as such, no. Many times the dreams he has are just moments of everyday life. Sometimes they are a bit more- daunting, I suppose."
"Voldemort and the unicorn," Harry supplied.
"Yes, that one. Harry had a dream when he was nine about it, and then in his first year when he was in the Forbidden Forrest he saw it for real."
Lupin gasped. "He was in the forest?"
"He was in the school," Harry told him. "But just his spirit. He doesn't have a body, not for now. But I had a feeling, after he didn't get the Stone, that he'd have one eventually, and I trust my feelings."
Lupin and Sirius exchanged glances. "That is- most impressive."
Harry nodded, glad at least that this old friend of his father and godfather didn't think he was insane. "I get déjà vu at really weird times, too. Like when I killed the basilisk."
"You what? Sirius, why are you letting him run around with dark lords and giant snakes?"
Sirius crossed his arms. "Don't look at me. He gets extra chores every time I hear about him doing anything remotely heroic. Doesn't seem to stop him."
Harry grinned, and Remus returned it. "You look happy, though, Harry. I'm glad. And glad as I am to see you, both of you, there's something I need to show you." He pulled a slim, leather bound sketchbook from inside his robes. "I received this not long ago. It was sent from Wormtail's vault."
He handed it over to Sirius, whose head had snapped to attention when Remus mentioned Peter. He had disappeared three years ago, and although Sirius was still technically the Auror assigned to the case, it was accepted as cold. "There's a letter," he murmured after opening the book. "'Moony. You're the best man I know at keeping secrets, so here's the one I've been working on since the first war. I've been gone for three years if you've got this. Don't try looking for me; I'm most likely dead. You've got to finish this, though. Wormtail.' That's it? What secret?"
"Look at the pictures," Lupin instructed.
Curious, Harry peered over his godfather's shoulder as he slowly flipped through the book. The first few were landscapes with a few distinguishing features, like a monument to an old Quidditch World Cup game or a road sign. But then there was a picture of a cave and Harry gasped.
"Harry?" Sirius asked. "What is it?"
Harry shook his head. He didn't really know. It was just a feeling really. "Something dangerous. I don't know. But it's there."
"What's there?" Lupin asked.
Harry didn't respond. He flipped the page instead, and found himself staring at a rough sketch of a locket. He gulped. "That. That's there."
"It's a map," Sirius realized, flipping through the next set of pages. "All we have to do is find out what each of these places are, and they'll lead us straight to- whatever this is. Harry, are you sure you don't remember?"
"No. But there are seven pieces."
Harry shrugged, "That's just a number that feels right."
Sirius stopped suddenly at the next picture. It was, presumably, the second object Wormtail had discovered. "Sweet Merlin. That's-"
Remus nodded. "That's also the reason I came here. That's definitely Fee's pendant, and she did mention that she sort of knew what they had wanted to use it for, but I lost touch with Fee before I lost touch with you. I don't know where she is, but I think with her help we'd be able to figure out what these are, why Peter had to be so secretive about it, and I think we can finish what he started."
Sirius and Harry couldn't resist. They began to laugh. Remus frowned. "What part of that was funny?"
Still laughing, Sirius glanced at his godson. "I dunno, Harry. Do you think we'll be able to pin Fee down?"
"It could be difficult. I mean really, when was the last time you saw her?"
"What do you two know that I don't?"
Sirius shook his head. "Oh, nothing. Nothing. Hey look, the wife's home!"
Harry paused outside his godfather's study. He knew it. Remus did think he was a freak. He just hadn't wanted to say so when Harry could hear. Well, he was hearing now, so let Lupin say whatever the hell he wanted and think it had been private.
He heard his godfather sigh. "I know."
"Harry said you didn't think they were prophetic."
"No, I don't, and neither do you. I think they're memories, from whatever life he had back then. I talked to Molly and Arthur. Their two youngest have it, too, so it's not just a coincidence."
"Does Harry remember?"
"No. I don't think so at least. And I've thought about that a lot. If he can remember what time used to be like, why can't he remember when it changed?"
"Well, he is only thirteen now."
"You think his age has something to do with it?"
Remus hummed. "I think… well frankly, yes, I do. There has to be some sort of law of time. They were displaced when they were seventeen. They can't have come back as infants, right? When they left they were still seventeen."
"So- Harry will remember when the timelines meet up, you think?"
"I think I want more than anything for him to be able to remember. So I hope I'm right."
Harry shook his head. He had no idea what they were talking about.
FORTUITOUS FLOOD AT AZKABAN
Two days ago, heave rain waters unearthed several of the deceased prisoners buried in the graveyard outside of Azkaban. While attempting to return the bodies to their proper plots, one of the Azkaban's Aurors noticed that body assumed to be that of Bartimous Crouch Jr. was in actuality a woman. Thorough charming by the Ministry of Magic's forensic team revealed the body to be that of Death Eater's mother, and no further searches of the graveyard revealed the assumed dead Crouch Jr.
"We will be treating this as an escape," Head of Aurors Rufus Scrimgeour informed the Prophet. "Teams of Dementors and Aurors will be routinely searching high risk areas, Diagon Alley, Hogwarts, etc, for any sign of the convict."
"Dragons," Harry replied glumly.
"And a Hungarian Horntail at that," Ron said, tossing a rock into the lake. "You'll want to watch out for that. They're mean, Charlie says."
"He might not get the Horntail," Hermione pointed out, though she sounded nothing if not unconvinced.
Ron snorted, "Oh, he'll get the Horntail alright. I can feel it. How are you going to beat it?"
And then Harry knew. He remembered a dream he had not even a year ago- pretty recently as far as relevancy for his dreams went. "Fly." He said. Only his hadn't been the only voice. Hermione had said it too. They looked at each other, wide eyed. "How did you…?" Harry began.
Hermione turned a little red. "I- look, I don't go in for Divination, you know that, right? So there must be some other explanation for this, but all my life I've, well-"
"You dreamed," Harry supplied, shocked.
"I dreamed," Hermione repeated.
"Me too," Ron added. "But not often. I mostly just get feelings. Like with the Horntail."
Hermione gulped. "So- we've all- dreamt about our lives?"
"But not our lives," Harry said. "Because not everything we've dreamed has happened. Or is that me?"
"No, it's me too," Hermione replied. "How did we not know this?"
Ron shrugged. "I knew. I mean, I knew that you lot were the same way. I thought you did too."
"You knew but didn't tell us?"
"I just said, I thought we all kind of felt that the others were the same way. But I guess it was just me. And Ginny. Ginny's the same way. So maybe that's why I didn't think it was weird, me finding you lot, because Ginny and I have been swapping dreams since we were kids."
They were silent for a moment. Then Hermione asked, "It's kind of like remembering a previous life, isn't it? I always thought so, anyway."
"You asked to see me, Professor Dumbledore?"
"Harry! Come in, sit down. Are you well?"
Harry shrugged. "As well as I could be, considering I was just used by a crazy, inmate escapee Death Eater to resurrect the most evil man known to history."
Dumbledore sighed. "It is that man I wish to discuss with you today, Harry. Sirius tells me you have seen the drawings that Remus received from Peter."
Harry nodded. "They're maps."
"Indeed they are, my dear boy. But maps to what, do you know?"
Harry bit his lip. "I know… I know that they're incomplete. There's not enough of them. But not enough to find what, I don't know. So I guess the answer's really no, sir. I don't know."
"You are quite correct, it is not all of them. But young Peter mapped the way to four different locations for us. Your godfather, Fiona, and Remus have been working on retrieving them since. Did you know?"
Harry shook his head. "But they've been careful, right sir? I don't know what they are, but if they're going to get killed like Wormtail-"
Dumbledore held up a hand to halt him. "What they're doing, dangerous or not, must be done. Come, Harry. Let me tell you about the Horcruxes."
"You never believed me! I told you! I told you Malfoy was up to something! I've been telling you for years that you shouldn't trust Snape! I told you, and you ignored me, like I was some sort of child!"
"Well you are the one throwing a temper tantrum!" Sirius snapped.
"Shut up! Dumbledore's dead, the Horcrux is a fake, Snape is out running hand in hand with bloody Voldemort, this isn't the time for your sarcasm!"
Sirius sank into a chair, rubbing his eyes. "I know. I know, Harry. I miss that crazy old man already too, alright? You think I'm not upset too? That what Peter died for, what Remus and Fee and I have been working towards for three years now, was for nothing? I'm furious, Harry. But breaking every vase in my house out of rage isn't going to do anything! So shut up and shape up, young man, because I will not tolerate it. Not today."
Harry deflated and sat before his godfather on the ground, leaning his side against the older man's legs. Sirius sighed sadly and placed a hand on Harry's shoulder. "I'm so sorry you've been dragged into this."
"I'm going with you."
Sirius's hand retracted quickly. "What?"
Harry looked up at him, determination gleaming in his eyes. "When you, and Aunt Fee, and Professor Lupin head out next time, to look for the Horcruxes, I'm going with you. I promised Dumbledore I'd finish this. And I'm going to do it."
"Absolutely not. It's dangerous. And you're still in school."
"I'm of age this summer. I can decide not to go back to school. And I have. Ron and Hermione, too. Maybe Ginny, I'm not sure what she finally decided. But we're not going back there. We're going with you. Besides, we all "remember" things about the Horcruxes that you've never dreamed of knowing, and we might remember more. We're coming with you."
Harry opened his eyes, expecting to see white again. Expecting to still be in that "maternity ward" with Fate and his friends' voices. But instead he saw trees. He heard a bird, somewhere. Felt the presence of his friends at his side. He could hear his aunt and uncle in a nearby clearing arguing with Professor Lupin about how to destroy the old locket of Aunt Fee's.
"Harry?" Ginny asked groggily, sitting up. "Where are we?"
Harry grinned at her. "Where we always have been. In the world we created."
It's been a long time coming, I know, and you can't even begin to know how much I appreciate all you guys who stuck by it all the way. So go ahead. Tell me what you think, ask me about whatever loose ends you want to question (I made up a whole new timeline in my head that I'm never going to get the chance to explore in this story- maybe a oneshot?- so I'm sure there are questions from you lot), all that jazz. It's been a blast, guys. Hope you enjoyed it half as much as I have.